Israeli Arab leaders: Police part of crime problem in Arab society

In letter to Erdan and Alsheich, Arab officials demand probe of policing in their sector.

Police at the scene of a crime in Rameh in northern Israel (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Police at the scene of a crime in Rameh in northern Israel
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Arab leaders have accused the Israel Police of being complicit in the problem of violent crime in Arab society, in a letter sent to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich on Wednesday.
The letter was signed by the Joint List, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and the committee of heads of Arab local authorities and was written on the heels of a violent weekend in which at least four Arab Israelis were allegedly murdered in separate incidents in Tira, Jisr e-Zarka and Reina.
“We do not know the number of attempted murders during that period because attempted murder has become so ‘normal’ and therefore no longer receives media coverage,” the letter reads.
The petitioners go on to accuse the police of being part of the crime problem in Arab society rather than its solution, arguing that the police plays an active role in establishing organized crime rather than combating it.
“Violent crime in Arab society is widely spread and the police appear to be unwilling to deal with it,” they said in a press release. “Or worse, [police] play an active role not in fighting crime but by managing a delicate balance of terror between various criminal organizations, as long as their activities do not spill over into Jewish society.”
They lament that instead of solving serious crimes, police at times “prefer to attempt to engage in traditional sulha [reconciliation] practices in which ‘dons’ of criminal organizations come to agreements and large financial payments are handed over and ‘peace’ (at least temporarily) is made.”
“Innocent victims of crimes, who live normative lives, are pressured by the police to ‘agree’ to these sulha practices, and senior police officers and the heads of criminal organizations participate in these traditional peacemaking efforts, and after ‘peace’ has been made, the police will not carry out further investigative actions, in order not to endan - ger the peace agreement,” the petitioners continue.
They claim that the arrests that are made usually involve minor criminals who are quickly released and allow the police to claim successful policing, but very few cases ever make it to court.
“The surrounding community is well aware of the true procedures, which empower the involved crime organizations’ ‘dons’ and threaten everybody else. The message is quite clear: Do not mess with us, we control the police,” the petitioners state.
They charge that while the police have demonstrated in the handling of crimes that occur in Jewish society that they have the tools and the abilities to solve crimes, they have decided not to use these tools in Arab society.
The police responded that their investigations of all murders, including the recent ones, are conducted in “a thorough and professional manner, with an uncompromising effort to reach the truth and bring the murderers to justice.”
The police also stated that it invests “considerable efforts into deciphering all cases of murder, using overt and covert means with according results.”
The police spokesman said that the facts speak for themselves, citing an approximately 30% decrease of murders in the Arab sector this year in contrast to the same period last year.
“Unfortunately, shooting incidents occur too often in the Arab society in Israel, most of them in the context of internal conflicts that escalate into violence,” the spokesman continued, stating that this was the case with the recent incidents. The police added that it works throughout the year to crack down on illegal weapons possession, having seized thousands of weapons in 2017, having arrested 2,225 suspects and recording 1,137 indictments against suspects for weapons offenses.
The police has recorded an approximately 40% increase in the number of arrests made in the first half of 2018 and a 75% increase in the number of indictments filed against those involved in shooting incidents compared to the same period last year.
“Only this week, in a large-scale operation involving thousands of police officers and fighters, the police seized many weapons,” the police statement noted.
“Alongside the activities of the Israel Police, it should be remembered that enforcement is not the only way to eliminate unacceptable social phenomena,” the police statement concluded. “Instead of incitement by elected officials against the police and against cooperation with the police, a harsh condemnation should be heard from the leadership of the Arab society, calling for an end to violence and shooting in the communities of the sector.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is leading a new program to improve policing in Arab communities, in which 1,350 police officers have been recruited and 12 new police stations have been established in Arab towns and cities.
But the petitioning Arab leaders charge that despite the recruitment of hundreds of police officers, not enough have been trained as investigators, and they arrive late to the scenes of crimes. They also argue that the new police stations are mostly symbolic, offering limited hours of operation that do not allow for serious round-the-clock policing.